You can use Google Analytics for Facebook

Facebook vs. Google Analytics - Tracking down the data difference

The reasons for the number dilemma can be found primarily (but not exclusively) in the different system logics of both tools with regard to data measurement, tracking, attribution and much more Tips on how the values ​​of both tools can be better compared.

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Click or session, that is the question

A user clicks on an ad link in Facebook that leads to your website. For Facebook, the click measurement is now complete. For Google Analytics, this only begins with the forwarding. Only if your website including tracking codes has been loaded will the "click" be credited, which, more correctly, represents a session in Analytics.

So far so good. Where does the difference come from? By aborting the page view, such as long loading times, problems with the Internet connection or unwanted clicks, followed by interruption of loading. The session does not come about and no “click” is recorded in Analytics.

It should also be noted that several clicks on the same link in a defined session period are recorded by Analytics as 1 session, while Facebook continues to count diligently. Conversely, Analytics can measure 2 sessions with 1 Facebook click if users are inactive on your website for a longer period and become active again after the defined session period.

Our tip: For a realistic comparison, just look at the numbers of “outbound clicks” on Facebook, because these - like Google Analytics - only relate to views outside of Facebook.

Traffic chaos with losses in Google Analytics

The majority of users use the social networks via app. The catch: In contrast to the browser version of Facebook, the app is often not correctly recognized as a referral access to your website (= referrer) by Google Analytics. This means that the traffic is credited for another channel, e.g. as organic access. The problem is usually a lack of referrer information when data is transmitted from the app.

Analytics also recognizes users on the basis of cookies that are set, which are browser and device-bound. As part of the customer journey, this can lead to the loss of data if, for example, a user changes device after interacting with your Facebook ad. In contrast, Facebook tracks across devices as long as the user is logged into the social network on their device.

Our tip: Use UTM parameters (Google Analytics tracking parameters) in the URLs of Facebook Ads. In this way "recognition problems" can be avoided. In addition, create the “Paid Social” channel in Analytics and use multi-channel reports. Even if these are also linked to cookies, they make it possible to better map the relevance of Facebook in the customer journey and the traffic and to recognize deviations more quickly.

About blind spots and Facebook‘s View

When it comes to tracking, Facebook is an egoist as a closed system, because it knows no other channels. If a conversion, such as a purchase, takes place after a Facebook ad interaction, this counts as the channel's own advertising success. Even if in the meantime, for example, a Google search with an ad click led to a purchase.

Facebook credits a campaign with a conversion if it took place after a user saw or clicked on a Facebook ad. Ad views on which this last-touch attribution is built are blind spots for Google Analytics and other channels for Facebook. Google Analytics tracking cannot collect any data within Facebook. Analytics reports are accordingly dependent on click-based conversions (usually last-click attribution), while Facebook has a plus on view conversions.

Our tip: To compare the reports, you should adjust the setting of the attribution columns in Facebook so that only click conversions are visible, because only these are also measurable for analytics. In addition, a click is a stronger sign of interest than a "view". On the other hand, the entire tracking results of Facebook in Analytics should be assessed against the background of the performance of all channels and the often supporting role of Facebook.

Errors and confusions between the attribution windows

If you buy today, you already let the cash register ring for Facebook yesterday. Sound confusing? We understand that, but if you follow the logic of the algorithm on which Facebook tracking is based, the contradiction is resolved.

A conversion, let's stay with the example of a purchase, is retroactively credited by the system to the day on which a user "came into touch" with a Facebook ad, i.e. saw or clicked it. For Google Analytics, on the other hand, only the here and now counts. The conversion is credited for the date of the actual purchase.

It should also be noted that the time periods in which actions are tracked by default differ from both tools (attribution window). Facebook works with 28 days (and 1 day after the view). Analytics registers actions regularly within 30 days, exclusively based on clicks.

Our tip: In order to approximate the Facebook data to the Analytics standard attribution, it is advisable to use the strictest attribution period, i.e. 1 day after the click. Because the longer the time until the conversion, the more likely the influence of other channels on the action and thus the credit for another channel in Google Analytics.

There is also the option of analytics to adjust the period and the model of the attribution. In general, however, we do not recommend this, as the data from all channels converge in this tool. A change could therefore have negative consequences for the data acquisition of other channels. Alternatively, however, the tool for comparing attribution models can be used for the specific comparison with Facebook.

The most important thing at the end: Due to the time lag in the conversion recording in Facebook, a results analysis is only recommended after a generous period of time, e.g. observation period plus an attribution period in order to give Facebook the time to retroactively credit conversions.

In summary: Nobody is perfect!

As shown, the reports of both tools for analyzing the results of your Facebook advertising campaigns have advantages and disadvantages. The perfect choice between Facebook and Google Analytics cannot be made.

The use case is much more important:

  1. If there are decisions to be made about Facebook optimization, you should also give this data more weight.
  2. If, on the other hand, you would like to view the performance of the social network in the context of the performance of all online channels, Google Analytics is the tool of choice.

During the evaluation, you should of course take into account the data difference with the help of the knowledge you have just gained, as well as the fact that Facebook usually has a preparatory or supporting role (> remarketing) in the customer journey.